A2000Our review of Fallujah‘s latest opus garnered attention recently. While other zines produced reviews that were like an unregulated experiment of the wanton fusion of two separate strains of exaggeration in praise of Unique Leader’s uniquest of leaders, headstrong Kronos did not join the throngs of adoring critics. He argued, clearly and forcefully, that even if the music on The Flesh Prevails is top notch, the mixing and mastering are not. The Flesh Prevails is a brutal and invigorating record, but the brickwall into which listeners careen is almost as brutal as the music itself. The Flesh Prevails is an ear fatiguing DR3, the promo mp3s peaked in the reviewer’s speakers, and the lack of dynamics palpable. Or maybe it’s better to say: the dynamics weren’t palpable.

Thanks to the W0nderz 0f th3 Internetz™ we received a drop-in visit from Zack Ohren. Zack mixed and mastered The Flesh Prevails and he went to bat for Fallujah‘s newest oeuvre. The thrust of his argument was thus: First, Fallujah plays dense, heavy material. It follows, then, that the DR score will be lower than on another kind of material. Second, Fallujah wants the sound to be immense and rarely uses quiet sounds or clean guitars. Instead, the band layers everything for desired effect. The mix follows suit and the master then also needed to push that sound. The band made a choice when offered a number of different options. Finally, Zack argued that the difference between the DR10 master and the DR3 promotional mp3s was not great. His argument, without trying to parse it too much, was that the mastering wasn’t the sole culprit for the sound: the music and the mix were also “at fault” due to conventions of the scene (see: the drums) and processes that happened before the record was mastered.

I do not intend to mediate this discussion or to comment on it further. But I will say this: Upon receiving the DR10 (no loudness) version of The Flesh Prevails I logged into Windows, opened up Foobar2000 and imported “The Night Reveals.” I then did a double-blind ABX (also known around here as The Swanö Challenge). I compared the tracks 14 times and could distinguish them every single time — there was therefore statistically a zero chance I was guessing. The DR10 master was thicker and fuller, with the vocals taking up more space in the mix and a way punchier snare drum. The bass, as well, was more prominent and filled out the sound. And it sounded so damned good.

Fallujah 2014

However, I think that Zack is partially correct in his assessment that the difference between the DR10 and the DR3 master are not so great as one might expect. This might seem counterintuitive to a lot of you, but it makes a lot of sense if you start to think about how modern metal is produced. If you’re engineering a record with a  DR3 master in mind, you make a number of choices in order to make sure that when the record loud it doesn’t sound like shit. The product that is produced, then, is perfectly geared to get really loud without clipping audibly—and that’s what The Flesh Prevails is. It’s a loud record, built to be a loud record.

But while this master is not a great example of the loudness war at work in that a DR10 mix will likely not cause the scales to fall from anyone’s eyes, the audible differences in dynamics and the thickness of some of the tastiest parts of the mix (bass! punchier snare! fuller vokills!1) do make me think that this is still a better final product. As I sit and listen to it in my cans, it sounds brutal and it sounds immense. It’s a modern mix, and Fallujah‘s desire to pursue ‘their’ sound succeeds, even when it’s not mashed together.

Cool Fallujah ArtSo why do we need a DR3 master? If the DR10 master is just as brutal, only with a wider spectrum and more dynamics even when the mix is geared for a loud mastering job, I’m not sure what the purpose of an overdriven master is. I’m left hoping, regardless, that the band and their label choose to release the DR10 master for fans that want it. The Flesh Prevails is a brutal tour de force of techy death metal and one of the better records I’ve heard this year. There’s no reason that I should hesitate to buy the CD because of the mastering job. For those interested in getting this mix, you can buy the vinyl (I will)—but that raises the question “why is it only people who buy vinyl who get better mastering jobs?” But I guess that’s a whole other can o’ worms, innit?


A Second/Revised Review
By: Kronos

Fallujah - Alternative Art

It’s been around a month since I panned Fallujah’s incredibly ambitious The Flesh Prevails on account of a gratuitously loud mastering job, and now that the storm that battered the review’s comments section has passed, the staff at Angry Metal Guy have all agreed that it’s time to take another look at the album. But this time it’s not quite the same album. How so? We have an alternate master, provided for us with consent from Fallujah by Zack Ohren, the man behind the knobs for The Flesh Prevails.

Quickly after my review was published, Zack appeared on the scene to engage us in an excellent discussion on his mastering choices and the reasons that I thought the album sounded like dirt. Despite taking a lot of criticism, he kept up with a lot of questions and always provided reasonable and level responses and was just generally a good guy. So before I get started, I have to tip my hat to him for making this meta-review possible. Zack took pride in his work and took action to resolve this little debacle I’ve created, and were it not for him I probably would have completely written off this album as a casualty of brickwalling.

Fallujah Propaganda

Zack provided for us a largely-unlimited mix of the album in .wav format, measuring a cool DR10 overall. As he said, the difference isn’t night and day, but it’s impossible to miss just how much better this non-brickwalled, lossless version of the album sounds

Gone is the clipping – entirely2. The intro to “Starlit Path” now produces waves of tranquility rather than disgust; where before the song showed weakness, it now produces strength. The initial crescendo, which was suggested rather than performed in the original version, now appropriately ushers in the release of energy that truly begins the record. “Carved from Stone” is similarly improved. It may not be quite as assaulting as the homogenized-volume version from the original promo material, but the trade-off is between heaviness and listenability. While going through my original review, I usually dreaded hearing certain portions of “Carved from Stone” and “Sapphire” because of just how corroded their most excellent features were. Now, the songs can breath – synthesizers that were once suffocating have become beautifully diaphanous.

The contrast and headroom afforded by this un-mastered master unmistakably change the recording for the better. The Flesh Prevails’ excellent writing and performances deserve no less. The emotion of the album can finally break the surface and make the songs truly beautiful and moving. “Chemical Cave” can now send shivers down my spine, and the dual centerpiece of “The Night Reveals/The Flesh Prevails” is a journey rather than a slog. One can take note of “The Flesh Prevails” echoing the motif that ends “The Night Reveals” before it runs away with the simple, beautiful melody without being distracted by hiss and crackle.

DR

The difference is more than a placebo, and though a few minutes of listening makes it obvious how much more dynamic and organic the album sounds in this incarnation, it’s still worth taking a look at the data- and the data speaks for itself. “Starlit Path” is now a stunningly dynamic DR10 compared to the homogenous DR3 of the original, and a comparison of their waveforms is stunning.

What I want to achieve more than anything with this, apart from being able to make an “Angry Meta-Guy” joke again (do your worst, Steel Druhm), is to make Fallujah and Unique Leader seriously consider releasing a secondary version of The Flesh Prevails. This master, or something like it, is what Fallujah fans deserve. I know that quite a few commenters on my original review have skipped this album because of the mastering and would gladly drop cash for a more dynamic version of the record, and I imagine they’re only a small number of the fans who are disappointed with how The Flesh Prevails sounds. The ball is now firmly in your court, Unique Leader and Fallujah. I respect the band’s choice to have the album sound how they wanted it, but I think it’s worth their time to reconsider that choice, because I’m not alone in thinking that it has seriously hurt what should be an excellent album.


Revised Rating: 4.0/5.0

Show 2 footnotes

  1. You know they’re “vokills” and not “vocals.”
  2. Though, to be fair, I think it’s important to note that the clipping on the mp3s we were delivered for promotional purposes were likely not on the original master, but instead are a consequence of the conversion process. Is it cool that the original master is so dense that converting it to a lossy file turns it into a mess of audible clipping? No. But, Mr. Ohren did not deliver an audibly clipping master. – AMG

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  • http://walkyrie.com.ve/ Luis Robles

    I heard the album and was truly disoriented I couldn’t understand much of it.

    I wish I could just get this mastered copy. It is a dream one can dream I suppose.

    • Leon6666

      Wtf..!? Err…so, if you thought, for example, The Godfather sucked when you watched it on DVD, do you think if you bought the blu ray version you’d suddenly enjoy it..?

      According to your post..possibly..

      I despair..

      • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

        You’re oversimplifying. If the godfather were released on DVD with a blurred focus that could make it difficult to watch, then your simile could be more apt.

        • Leon6666

          & you’re over-complicating it.

          You’re implying this current version of the record is unlistenable in quality or something. I think the DVD/blu ray analogy is apt here.

          A ‘blurred picture’ is a serious defect. Unless my memory fails me, I don’t recall any glaring technical errors on this recording whatsoever. Sounded ‘ok’ to me. Horrible drum sound and the music was extremely repetitive and wanky (I just WISH they’d focus on the atmospheric material rather than the generic blast beat rubbish), but for you imply there was a serious issue (akin to a blurred picture, to go back to the analogy) with this recording is a little..well, over the top certainly.

          • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

            I’m not “implying” it’s unlistenable. But I do think the serious lack of sound dynamics does affect the already low music dynamics. You may believe this is technical wankery akin to the musical wankery you seem to despise so much in this record, and you’re free to hold on to that belief, but I think you’re the only one here taking things over the top.

      • http://walkyrie.com.ve/ Luis Robles

        Dónt get me wrong. The album is topnotch but the sound leaves a lot to be desired, I wish it was a lil bit more clear because the fingerwork on the woods of the guitars is quite good. THhs one has a lot of dynamism and saves probably a lot of the sounds that are lost in the mix.

  • RilesBell

    What might the best course of action be for one to get this DR10 version released?

    • sssgadget

      Request Zack? I really wish I could get hands on the DR10 copy.

      • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

        I have no control over that at all. I will say this, as pointed out in the footnote #2, you’re not going to be getting a dogshit product or something if you get this as is. In fact, you’ll be getting exactly what was intended by the band and reviewed in all other reviews of this record. If the band wants to come up with some way to distribute the “quiet” master(god how I hate the usage of the shitty foobar plugin to call it DR10, but I digress) that’s up to them. I see no harm but it’s tricky for sure. That said, I don’t see a great reason for them not to want people who otherwise wouldn’t buy it to buy it. Considering the vinyl is out there and this is very similar to the vinyl master, aside from some stereo image stuff),I could see them maybe giving in to this but like I said, it’s completely reasonable and in their right not to as well.

        • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

          It aint’ foobar2000 saying it’s DR10. it’s TT DR Meter.

          I’ll be buying the vinyl, by the way.

        • funeraldoombuggy

          Zack, I know you don’t have control but could you please mention to the band that there’s an audience that wants to give them $ for a dynamic master? Thank you!

          • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

            They are aware of this site/thread. It also may not be entirely in their hands as they’re on a label who has control over the masters, not them. They can do as they like.

        • Sebastian Saier

          Well, I already bought the vinyl version of it and am still extremely interested in the DR10 version. I think I´m not the only one here who already owns the album. I want to hear this album in the best way possible and I really like dynamic music. So I´m hoping for the best.

  • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

    If the band or label are wondering, I would put a standard amount of dollars for the DR 10 master on bandcamp. Why bandcamp? Not DRM encumbered, lossless encoding available right out of the box and I’m not tied to iTunes and Apple even for download. Hell, even the limited social features of bandcamp give you some promotion. Just see Earache and the success of their full dynamic range releases.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future labels start offering different versions of albums like this. Are you listening on crappy earbuds on the subway or at the gym? Get the squished one. Are you listening at home on an actual stereo, perusing the lyrics and actually listening to the damn thing? Get the more dynamic one.

      This exists to some degree already with the vinyl versions of stuff (mostly out of necessity but it’s a nice side effect), but not everyone has a record player and not everything gets a vinyl release.

      I recently got the vinyl reissue of The Stooges’ Raw Power, the Iggy Pop mix from the late nineties that was mixed well but flatlined all to hell, and it sounds amazing. Easily the best version out there, but seemingly not available in any other format.

      • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

        I thought I’d ranted about it at some point, but I think it’s Grade A Horseshit that we have to buy vinyl to get uncompressed masters. As a consumer of nearly all digital music nowadays, but with equipment that makes it sound good, I think I should be able to purchase lossless, high quality files of full dynamic range records. This is not too much to ask.

        • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

          Nope, fully agreed. And as much as I am a record hoarder, I just don’t want to own every single album I like on such a large format. Often times a $7 bandcamp download is plenty, and takes up zero physical space.

          Of course I’m still drooling waiting for my new gold Yob record to show up in a few weeks, but that’s beside the point.

        • AnimalShenanigans

          It sucks too that the industry seems to think that anyone with a CD player wants a crushed version of their music. Meanwhile, the only people with dedicated CD players any more probably have some good equipment to play it on, so why not offer them the best sounding version as they do with vinyl? Maybe it’s to keep that “vinyl mystique” up or something…I know a few people who think that it’s something to do specifically with the format that determines audio quality (i.e. the exact same mix/master would sound better on vinyl because vinyl). The CD does not need to be an inferior format; for example, Profound Lore takes great care in their CD releases and make a fantastic tangible and musical product, and price it quite cheap. Maybe Unique Leader could be a, y’know, unique leader in the industry and release a “Deluxe Edition” of this album with one disc as the “Regular” master and one disc as the “Dynamic” master. Do that instead of pointless DVDs of music videos and shenanigans that I can just find within 4 seconds on YouTube anyway.

          • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

            Well, rather than some “vinyl mystique” it’s mostly due to the physical limitations of the vinyl itself. It’s not that you can’t put a hyper-compressed recording on vinyl and have it play without the needle skipping – you just can’t do it very loudly. Vinyl depends on RMS level (average loudness over time, basically) whereas digital is only limited by peak loudness.

            So, if you have a crazy brickwalled master that’s super-compressed but peak-free, if you want to put it on vinyl, you’ll need to have it much quieter than something with a DR of 10 or so. They might be roughly the same average volume but the peaks of the DR10 one – the drums for example – will be that much more hard-hitting.

          • AnimalShenanigans

            That’s a damn good summary there. Thank you for that! I guess where my “mystique” comment was that even though you can have fantastic sounding contemporary metal CD’s (Convulse’s latest is a good example; it clocks in at an awesome DR11), label pressure to release one at DR6 or below trumps that ability. My only idea for a reason is subversive advertising: perhaps the labels want to build up that vinyl (not coincidenally the most expensive way to buy an album) is the only “true” way to enjoy an album, and thus make the vinyl sound better through what amounts to artificial means (making what is already there worse). That way, you have people scooping up the more expensive items, and can “limit” them to get an even more fervent buying spree going. Thus the “mystique” that the only way to get a great sounding version of an album is on vinyl.

            As for bands that want a loud master, I read somewhere (I think it was Metal-Fi) that the louder, crushed master sounds better initially for a few minutes before fatigue sets in. Chances are, the artists who agree with loud mastering do a quick A/B and determine the louder one sounds better. It would use a lot of studio time to listen to the album twice through in full, and chances are the band just doesn’t want to sit through what they’ve spent weeks on day in and day out twice in a row. I’m not sure though. This is all purely conjecture on my part.

          • http://www.metal-fi.com/ Alex

            Of course I want to add, level matching is the KEY. If you just hand two masters to a band, one crushed, one dynamic, and they don’t level match, it is no wonder they pick the compressed one most of the times. Our ears are like that and I wrote about that here as well as on MFi.

            Once you level match though, the story is much different!

  • RF2000

    The shitty mastering is THE reason I haven’t bought this album. If I can’t listen to two songs straight without getting a headache, I don’t care how great the music is.

    • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

      it’s not a shitty mastering. If you have Spotify premium I would recommend listening the album there. Spotify Premium uses a Q9 setting from Ogg Vorbis that is roughly equivalent to 320kbps and the album sounds way different there to what I could hear on the shittily encoded youtube and grooveshark tracks that were available when this was first reviewed.

      That being said, I still like the sound of what Zack made available from the quieter mix much more. And i defer to AMG and Kronos to the rest.

  • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

    I think just so one thing is clear I should point out, that this is not an “unmastered” version they are reviewing. It is a master where I greatly reduced the average RMS output for example on Carved From Stone from -17RMS to -25RMS roughly. Multiple changes were made to make sure this didn’t just sound weak(like the actual unmastered version does) but I maintain that it’s somewhat of a toss up to me. Luckily I had done this mastering in phases so I was able to put this together quickly for Angry Metal Nerd to hear.

    Also as I’m glad was pointed out in footnote 2, I have no idea how clipping ended up on promo mp3s as it’s not on the CD master itself. I didn’t do the conversion so I can’t speak to how that happened but it should be ignored since those who bought the record did not receive that. I probably prefer some songs/parts in the master reviewed here, but for example I much prefer the bigger version of Carved From Stone. It sounds more aggressive and giant in the final master. In the “DR10″ version it’s got improvements in clarity I guess but none of that was intended and frankly kind of detracts from the vision slightly of what this was supposed to be. The drums end up too loud since they were mixed with the intention of crushing them a bit and the music isn’t as glued as it was intended. That said, this is nitpicking either way. I guess the point I’m trying to make is, if you don’t buy the record based on wanting the master reviewed here, I highly recommend otherwise.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      As I said, the reason I don’t think that this is some kind of chip in the armour of the Loudness War is because the production is done in such a way that it doesn’t make a night-and-day difference when all is said and done. If you actually listen to the different versions of Swanö’s stuff, you really do hear night/day differences, because those records are far more analogue in their sound. But there are some who will say that you’re at fault for that as the guy who mixed and engineered it in the first place. You make choices about how much dynamic range is available and how much you let instruments breathe, etc.

      Anyway, I prefer the DR10. I don’t really agree that it doesn’t sound as brutal and aggressive—but I also think that a sound more akin to the last Gorguts easily could have suited this record. But I do agree with you that it’s far more nitpicky than other examples.

      Either way, I think this record is great. I’ve really enjoyed listening to it a lot and comparing its different incarnations. Fallujah is a cool band and they (and you) have been a good sport. I’d ask you in the future to produce Angry Metal Nerd masters of your records for the world to partake of. We may be nerds, but nerds control the world, buddy. ;)

      • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

        hmmm, well are there any others specifically you want a hyper dynamic version of? I could always oblige I guess with band’s permission.

        • Kronos

          Would’ve helped my take on Inanimate Existence. Probably.

        • Sebastian Saier

          Immolation and Decrepit Birth come to mind. I already dig the sound of Majesty and Decay (for a modern metal production). Less compression/ more dynamics would most likely improve the listening experience even more for me. I agree on Inanimate Existence.

          • Anthony Amoeba

            I would pay $30 for a dynamic version of Majesty and Decay

          • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

            Hell yes, me too.

          • http://www.metal-fi.com/ Alex

            Depends on the mix though. I would tread carefully.

          • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

            I didn’t master most recent Decrepit Birth(was done by West West Side Mastering) though I also don’t love it(or hate it) but if anything it’s fairly quiet I had thought. Been a while since I critically listened to it. That doesn’t mean it’s not overcompressed of course. In fact I would love to remix/reamp their last album as well haha. It was a bit of a clusterfuck recorded at 3 studios. The first album hit the press with a major mistake done by the label or somebody in the process of getting it pressed that made the entire album very quiet(and worse sounding).I of course have the “proper” copy as do some people but those that bought the original CD got fucked up versions of Diminishing Through Worlds which pisses me off to this day haha. The worst part is that it is limited but not to -0.1 or something but to Polarity was done by West West Side Mastering but in both cases they are DR5 which is certainly plenty of dynamic space considering the density is similar to fallujah almost. Just IMO I guess.

            I did Majesty and Decay as well as you know(mix/master only in both cases, did not record). Also did that EP for Immolation that was actually my favorite mix and master of the 3 for the most part. I did notice despite sounding exactly the same volume to me the EP is DR4 and the new full length is DR3. Majesty and Decay is also DR4 from a quick test I did. I flatly disagree the new album is really too loud, it handles the volume just fine I feel but I guess that’s your opinion. If nothing else, if I can find the session files(they’re much older than you might think, early 2012) I will see about getting that. There was no vinyl master done of any of these so I’d be starting from scratch.

            Now in the case of Inanimate Existence that project is still rather recent and sitting on my work hard drive. Also from what I can see they have the song The Rune of Destruction up officially to be heard for free on youtube so I guess if I get time today I’ll make a quick version of that with a higher DR for you to hear. I highly doubt they’ll kill me for it.

            It’s important to note though that while I’m not against making these versions for those who want them it’s important that you not share these as clearly the bands do not want them out in the open otherwise they would have put them out that way. if you are interested in hearing it though go ahead and email me at [email protected] and I’ll see about getting what I can out to you guys that want it.

          • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

            Also just checked(by quickly illegally downloading haha) and the Diminishing Between Worlds album is like I thought totally fucked. for some reason it got adjusted to -7.21 despite being DR5. I still have no idea how some no talent ass clown fucked that up. Shame too as that record is great IMO

          • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

            It is done, made DR6 and DR9 versions of Ruins. awaiting email requests…

          • Sebastian Saier

            Thank you so much for your work. I’m really happy about all of this right now. This is a step in the right direction :)

          • Anthony Amoeba

            “There was no vinyl master done of any of these so I’d be starting from scratch”

            I KNEW IT. No wonder the vinyl sounded awful as well (kingdom of conspiracy)

          • http://www.castleultimate.com Zack Ohren

            Wait are you telling me those clowns at the label made a vinyl of that record without even mentioning it to me(the mastering engineer)? Oh for fuck’s sake. NB(that’s who it is right) usually knows better than to botch something like that. I’m sure it sounded awful

        • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

          I mean more as a rule, man.

          Or how ’bout this, you just ask people to make sure that the vinyl masters get released digitally.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Coloured Sands is a master piece!

    • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

      I think one major point can be made based in one of your statements and that is you had no control of the encoding used in the promos. All the same, you can’t have any control of the myriad of ways your product could be heard. And saying that it should be ignored it’s not enough since MP3 encoded at a constant bitrate is still a very popular choice used by many big digital distribution and streaming services. And also it’s still a popular choice for personal ripping and encoding.

      So you can say “the CD mastering is the definitive way this record should be listened by my personal and the band standards” and we could leave it at that and bite the bullet that it means. But this is 2014 and you have in popular use a myriad of lossy digital formats that can affect the way your product sounds. Sure, digital compression is an entirely different issue than actual dynamics compression. But if that artistic choice is hurting your product in any conceivable way, then it should be reconsidered, if not for this, then for future releases.

      And sure, some could say that the artistic statement of the band could be summed up as “We think the dynamics in music is overvalued by a small and loud subset of music nerds than don’t matter as much as the majority of our fans,” but that is oversimplifying both sides of the argument.

      I for one have had the chance to hear it on Spotify Premium, as I have mentioned elsewhere in this thread, the encoding they use is based on the Ogg Vorbis format with what I assume is a Q9 setting that can go from 320 to 500kbps. Ogg Vorbis Q9 is considered largely transparent to CD quality for the vast majority of the population and listening conditions, so I’m pretty sure what I’m hearing is very close to what I could hear on the CD master. I can say that it really sounds way different than what it was available for online promotion when this was first reviewed. So sure, you could just blow off all of this just as a PR mistake from whoever was responsible of encoding the promos, but being possibly dismissive of popular circumstances that could make your album unlistenable is not really helpful for all those involved.

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    Interesting stuff. I appreciate that you guys are fighting the good fight here – I wonder if the worm is turning in the so-called Loudness war. I’ve seen a lot of push back all over the internet lately, more so than even when Death Magnetic was the boogieman in the room.

    Nice to see Mr. Ohren articulating his side of the argument calmly too. As someone who haunts a lot of audio forums, there certainly are a lot of hobbyist “experts” out there (myself included, likely) who tend to weigh in with half-formed opinions.

    That said, I wager that in a decade or so we’ll see a lot of reissues from this time period specifically to counteract this kind of sqaushing, especially as laptop speaker/earbud/whatever technology improves.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      I genuinely hope that we’re going to see remasterings of metal records between 2001 and about 2008 when it was at its absolute worst. I would pay for remastered Amon Amarth records from that period, for sure.

      • Dave

        Earache has been doing a brilliant job with their FDR series. If other metal labels picked up and ran with that idea, I would be absolutely over the moon.

        Amon Amarth records through Fate Of Norns are going to need a lot more than just dynamics to sound good. They just weren’t that well recorded. Now starting with WOOOS when Jens Bogren took over engineering duties, THAT is a different story. Those albums even on CD aren’t too shabby, and on vinyl they are spectacular.

        Right now, the best way to listen to Once Sent through Versus The World is the live DVD that came with Surtur Rising from the shows when they played those albums in their entirety. The audio extracted from the DVD is way more enjoyable than both the original CD releases and the vinyl.

        • Kronos

          The first metal show I ever saw was Amon Amarth playing Surtur Rising in its entirety. After they were done, they played another entire set. No opener, no other bands. It was pretty impressive.

          • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

            They’re so beastly live, too. Best show I’ve seen, hands down, was Amon Amarth on the WOoOS tour.

  • Leon6666

    Jesus, this is so over the top.

    You make it sound like this DR10 changes the entire album or something..(!)

    An ever-so-slightly reduced fucking hiss on a track is so ridiculously incidental it beggers belief that you would actually grade the album higher because it ‘sounded’ fractionally better.

    It’s still an occasionally interesting, but overly busy, distractingly wanky record. Talented guys but they need to stop being so overly technical at every opportunity. It’s not big and it’s not clever.

    I hear they’re young guys though, so hopefully their attitude towards music will mature as they do, they’ll stop trying to show off so much & perhaps even learn to hold a melody/beat for more than a second.

    The hyperbole for this album is totally bemusing.

    • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

      You may have your opinion on the quality on this album, but it’s not like it went from a score from Zero to Perfection. Unlike almost everywhere in the internet, AMG has more nuanced opinions than “hate” and “awesome.”

      • Leon6666

        I just think it’s bizarre to get so hung up on the production of an album. Some of my all-time favourite records sound like shit. For example, however ‘flawed’ it may be, my favourite ever drum sound is still Morbid Angel’s Covenant.

        I suppose one of my biggest gripes these days is how SO many metal records sound the same. Clinical, polished, lifeless. It’s a real shame that’s all.

        A younger generation of metal fans barely seem to worry about that. In the same way that many of them are happy to listen to dated, generic crap that has been done a hundred times better twenty years ago.

        Being in my mid-teens during the early nineties, perhaps I’m spoilt. It was a Golden Age for death and black metal. Although there is still gold to be found amongst the shit, the vast majority of metal being made today is seriously fucking boring.

        Fallujah got me excited initially because I loved the ‘mellow’ touches. The air of dreamy ambiance that floated over the music. It’s just unfortunate that their riffs/song structures are so uninteresting.

        Anyway, I digress…

        • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

          You may not find it at all surprising that perhaps most if not all of your descriptions of modern metal sound comes as a result of the same endemic use of “loudification” for the sake of it.

          And sure, this album may entirely not be your thing, but even AMG and Kronos admit that this was not a case where you fall to your knees praising the second coming of The Lord of Dynamics. They already liked the album, (which is as always entirely subjective, it’s not really necessary to point that, but it’s a regular point of contention around here) and the more dynamic mix that Zach graciously provided just reinforced that favorable opinion.

  • Kryopsis

    While I read AMG every day, I rarely post so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in this article, especially Zack Ohren. I still find it remarkable that he would provide the special mix and participate in this discussion to such an extent. It’s nice to hear from ‘the other side’ of the debate, no matter how I personally feel on the subject.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Yeah, we’re all very excited about it, too. It’s been fun.

  • http://www.metal-fi.com/ Alex

    Ian of Production Advice also had an interesting take on it in case folks didn’t catch our blurb: http://www.metal-fi.com/flesh-prevailed/

    Not trying to thread crap or anything, just want to facilitate more data.

    AMG and Kronos, nice work!

  • Dave

    THANK YOU GUYS for doing this, it really means a lot to Alex and myself to get as much of this out there as possible. I do have a couple of comments: “The thrust of his argument was thus: First, Fallujah plays dense, heavy material. It follows, then, that the DR score will be lower than on another kind of material.”

    This just isn’t true. Kanye West’s latest album is every bit as loud as Fallujah’s album. You can make *any* kind of music as loud as you want, or as quiet as you want. The idea that if it’s gonna be heavy and “brutalz” it HAS to be smashed to hell is complete and utter crap, another excuse used to justify yet another mastering horror show.

    Before the War, Deicide albums used to be in the DR12 range. Same with Morbid Angel albums and Obituary albums. The great Unquestionable Presence was DR13. That’s just how it was back then whether you were Anathema or Atheist, because record labels were not demanding smashed garbage.

    If you follow any band that was releasing albums from 1993 on, you can watch their records get louder and louder as the years pass. It has nothing to do with “dense heaviness” in their music, and everything to do with label pressure and lowest common denominator mastering. Cannibal Corpse is about as dense and heavy as you can get, and their records are *identical* in loudness to everybody else, plenty of dynamics in their early albums.

    Why is that? Why weren’t Eaten Back To Life or Butchered At Birth DR3 like Fallujah’s album? Weren’t they trying to be dense and heavy? Because they didn’t *need* to be. You don’t, under any circumstances, no matter what style of music you are playing, *ever* need to compress to DR3 to get a heavy sound. It simply is NOT necessary or even desirable. Period.

  • Robotron2084

    Thanks for doing this Zack….gotta keep us nerds happy.
    I’ll be buying the vinyl. Hopefully the band will let you create a new mix for release and I will pick that up as well (hello bandcamp).

    I myself am not a fan of the current loudness addiction in music production since I like to crank my music through some bigass speakers and that’s where I find it’s weakness shows, but to our headphone society it does make sense.

    Again thanks to you, AMG and staff.

    • http://www.metal-fi.com/ Alex

      Actually, for headphones, it makes LESS sense.

      • Robotron2084

        Well when I said headphones I meant the standard crap included with every player that the majority uses, but yes with quality cans the difference is night and day.

        Great point though! Thanks for the emendation.

        • http://www.metal-fi.com/ Alex

          Oh gotcha! Makes sense!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I ####ing love this record spun it a few times today on a long drive. If a DR:10 version was released on Bandcamp, I would buy it again without hesitation.
    Good on you Zach for putting this out there.

  • Excentric_1307

    Zack Ohren; thank you so much for taking the time to engage this community in meaningful discussion over production in the metal world. Your point of view is certainly one we normally wouldn’t get, which would make this site more of a platform for ranting rather than discussion.

    Personally, I would REALLY love to buy the DR10 version. I find it easier to fall into the music when there’s more space to the mix.

  • D3Seeker

    Hmmmmm. Labyrinth had an effect on you no doubt. Just done become one of those stuck up old hens that skips over releases JUST BECAUSE of a poor mix and mastering job. This is certainly a crusade to be had but just stay level headed with the way you go about it. Down rating for the loudness affliction……. just no.

    I do hope we may get this dynamic released at some point for us who lack turntables :p

  • Lemonitos

    So, I finally gave this one a spin. The compression and loudness are not nearly as bad as all this discussion make look like. This album is very listenable and, although I would prefer a little more “air” or space in the mix/master, it is not nearly as bad as… say… Deafheaven’s ‘Sunbather’… I really don’t get what’s so great about that album, and to me the production is unbearable, pure shoegaze-y shit.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Me too and I like Deafheaven and think Sunbather is a goodish record but I just don’t get the hype…though I do have a theory

      I think their success is based more on the abstract, their hipster appeal rather than anything particularly amazing about the music.
      I read about a study that gave people three glasses of the same wine, but from different bottles (label / shape) and with different types of back ground music playing. The participants almost always rated and judged the wine as differing in quality.

      I think that if Sunbather had had a black album cover with skull on it and if the guys weren’t good looking NYC dudes that could be ‘The National’ or whatever, the reception to the album would have been a lot different.
      Which is not a comment on the music or those guys, I say good luck to them. They’ve just marketed and positioned themselves really well. So much so that, PItchfork have said they’re cool…so they’re cool…

  • Angel R. Suarez

    After having listened to the currently available version of this album… I’d pay double for the DR10 version. I cry blood like an androgynous vampire thinking about how amazing it must sound.